We used to live near the river Wye. It was about half an hour’s walk along the river bank to Hereford Cathedral. Very often we would take Pippa, our dog, and walk a circular route along that river bank and back, till I knew it like the back of my hand. We saw the river, the fields, the hedgerows and badger-sets all in their varying moods. We knew the shape of the trees and the flight of the birds, and where the ducks could be seen. We knew where the banks of bluebells grew, with a profusion of wafted scents, in June. We became aware of the constantly changing light, and how at different times the colour changes in a subtle way. We also became aware of the constantly moving life: even in the snow and mud and the apparent deadness of winter the force of new life is working underground, and then, through the spring, there is the vigour of new growth. It’s no accident that the Church’s year is based on a similar pattern ~ a birth in the bleak mid winter; the long chilly days of Lent; and now the new life bursting from the tomb at Easter.
Behind all I’ve described, the shapes and colours and the changing light, the life and growth of trees and crops and animals, there is one source: one source of every scrap of energy and light and colour which brings the world alive to us and makes it beautiful. And that is the sun. The sun is literally life-giving. Even on the darkest and coldest winter days the sun is still, though less visible, the power-house making life possible for you and me and everything around us; and it’s also the means of us seeing everything.
When the author of the Book of Revelation needed a strong image for the risen Christ he seized on that of the sun. ‘His face’, he wrote, ‘is like the sun shining in full strength’.
And many poets and hymn-writers have likened Christ to the sun. Charles Wesley, for example, writing:
“Christ, whose glory fills the skies.
Christ, the true, the only light.
Sun of righteousness arise.
Triumph o’er the shades of night.”
St John tells us that it was in the very early morning, just before sunrise, that Mary came to the garden to bring spices to the tomb. And it is Sunday when he rises: the day of the sun. And you can see why the sun is such a powerful image for the risen Christ. For Good Friday and Easter Day are not just two events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. They’re cosmic happenings which, then and now, point to truths about the nature of God, which, if you will allow them to, can transfigure the whole world in your eyes. C.S. Lewis said: “I believe in the resurrection of Christ as I believe that the sun has risen; not because I can look on it direct, but because, by it, I can see everything else.”
That’s how it must have been for those first friends of Jesus, who had fled, most of them, at his horrific death. For them, the Easter Day experience was of knowing him again in their midst, vibrant and full of radiant energy. And, as they looked back, flabbergasted by his irrepressible life, then, the penny dropped, and his words, his actions, his cross ~ all were changed, and newly understood, in the light of his resurrection. At Easter, the risen Christ, like the sun, became the means of them seeing everything afresh. ‘It’s like being born again,’ they said: ‘everything has become new. Whereas we were blind, now we see.’
And, as with us by the river Wye, the more you walk the same path the more you see ~ the more you actually notice; so that, each year, of the Resurrection, we can say, “I never saw this or that truth quite so clearly before!”
These are not, you see, dusty historical truths ~ rather, they change how we view, and how we do, things here and now, and today. So it is, that the Church exists today because everyone, (not just those being baptised), can discover that the Resurrection is a now event, not just something experienced in the past and remembered today, nor just something we hope for after we die (though we do); quite simply, the Resurrection is something we are to experience today: in this moment of time. It is a relationship with God who is alive in me, and in all life on earth. This resurrection life~ by radically changing my perspective ~ opens my blind eyes, now, to see God’s goodness (in me and others), and to set me free from prisons of my own making; thereby, as it were, raising me from the dead, and giving me new life. I know, in my hearts, and my guts, this is true; I know it as surely as I know the sun will rise tomorrow morning.
And you can know it too! Today’s baptism ~ of Estelle, Rhiannon, Ryan and Riley ~ reminds us, in these powerful baptism truths, on this glorious Easter Day, that we are Easter people, who, henceforth, live in the light of the Resurrection.
Because of Easter, we know that, in the end, all shall be well, and that we are held, lovingly, through life and through death, by the living God; who on the first Easter Day made it clear for all time how things truly are. Because of that, we are able to say, with the prophet, Job:
“I know that my redeemer lives; that in the end he will stand upon the earth, that after this skin has been destroyed, in my flesh, I will see God.”
That ~ nothing less! ~is the message of hope for us to share with the world this Easter Day!
May the joy of Easter, and the power of the risen Christ, be yours today, and all through your lives.